They decorate the tree.
“National Peduncle Awareness Day is coming up,” Martin says.
“You shouldn’t skip over Christmas,” Jane determines.
“Well, yes,” says Martin. “Christmas. And St. Stephen’s Day. And New Year’s. But after that, National Peduncle Awareness Day. Are you excited?”
Jane makes a face. She takes a giant plastic truth quark out of a box. It is a Christmas ornament. She hangs it carefully on the Christmas tree. Her actions make the italics quite clear.
“I will be very aware of peduncles.”
“That might be hard for you,” Martin cautions. “You don’t know what they are.”
“I will practice alert paranoia!”
“It’s a condition where your eyes extrude on stalks,” Martin says. “‘Peduncles.’ You would think it was a space alien disease, but it’s actually local and very tragic. So you’re supposed to be extra observant and aware of it on January 12, to help show tolerance and love for our peduncle-afflicted brethren.”
“How do you get it?”
Martin shrugs. “Dunno. Eating infected crab eyes, maybe?”
Jane wrinkles her nose. “Ew.”
“That’s not very tolerant of you!”
Jane hangs a top quark on a middle branch. “It’s also Miltymas,” she says.
Martin raises an eyebrow.
“I mean, on the 12th,” Jane says.
“He’d started as Pope Miltiades,” Jane says. “But everyone called him ‘Milty John.’ He was this guy in a ragged outfit and a torn and dusty miter. He’d come hiking up when you were having trouble with lions or whatever.”
“Did this happen often?”
Jane shrugs. “Dunno. But on the 12th of January, people’d celebrate Miltymas. It was to honor all the times when they’d been in trouble, and something had saved them. Like luck or a friend or a renegade ex-Pope. They’d leave out unleavened bread and milk for him and wear little pope hats and make lion cakes and stuff. Eventually, everyone forgot about him, but Milty John was still worth a lot of money, so they stuffed him in the tunnels rather than throwing him away.”
“Huh,” says Martin. “I’d heard of him, of course, but the details of his Papacy are so fuzzy! I couldn’t tell if he’d survived to become a legendary holiday figure.”
“It was probably quantum indeterminate until just now,” Jane says.
“Really?” Martin sounds pleased.
“It’s your keen probability-collapsing observation at work!”
“I keep meaning to collapse all the rest of history into a deterministic state,” Martin confides. “But whenever I try, my eyes bug out so hard from all the observation that I get dizzy.”
“Maybe that’s how you get peduncles,” Jane says.
Martin hangs up a small candy cane. He thinks.
Jane watches him think.
“Wow,” says Martin. “That’d make National Peduncle Awareness Day kind of ironic.”
“Your eyes are totally bugging already. You’ve been awaring too hard!”
Martin checks that his goggles are still secure and Jane cannot see his eyes. Then he nods firmly.
“Are not,” he repeats.
Jane giggles merrily. “It’s your own fault for trying to skip right past the Christmas spirit.”
“It was reckless of me,” Martin concedes.